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State Science and Technology Policy Advice: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges - Summary of a National Convocation 6 Next Steps to Enhance Science and Technology Policy Advice at the State Level To forge a more effective science and technology policy advising system at the state level, many presenters and participants at the convocation thought that changes must occur both inside and outside government. According to Doug Henton, states must place themselves in a position to take advantage of science and technology policy advice more effectively and efficiently. First, state governments need to work with academic institutions and businesses to identify the state’s strengths and weaknesses. “What are your strengths? What do you want to be good at? What do you want to build on? What are your assets?” The state then must invest in institutions and programs that enable it to take advantage of its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. The key is not necessarily how much a state spends, Henton said, but how funding is used. For example, state support can be used to foster collaboration and long-term commitments. “You don’t want to do one thing and the next thing and the next thing,” Henton said. The centers of scientific and technological development in states that have been successful, such as Research Triangle Park in North Carolina,1 are products of sustained and long-term investments. Outside state governments, the institutions that are in a position to offer science and technology policy advice at the state level must 1 For more information about North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, see <http://www.rtp.org/main>.
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State Science and Technology Policy Advice: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges - Summary of a National Convocation work together and learn from each other. Colleges and universities, other nonprofit research institutions, federal laboratories, state academies of science, and state science and technology councils can all act to enhance the science and technology base in a state and connect that base to the state’s goals. Furthermore, all of these institutions are working effectively in some states and not others. A mechanism for sharing best practices and innovative approaches could strengthen policy advice in all states. States need to establish systems to measure the results of initiatives involving science and technology. Once money is spent, the legislature and governor are going to ask what was accomplished and why the state should continue to fund these activities. Again, some states already have made considerable progress. For example, the Massachusetts Innovation Index measures every step of the innovation process, including research and development, commercialization, patents, royalties, and outputs in terms of new jobs. Measures should not include just inputs but also outputs in terms of facilities, patents, personnel, education, and so on. Other possible measures are industry interactions, collaborations, invention disclosures, licensing, venture capital attracted, new companies formed, industry concentrations increased, companies retained, employment increased, the number of high-value-added jobs created, graduate students hired in the state, existing industries transformed, and new industries developed. “There needs to be some type of an accounting system in place,” said Henton. “Promises can’t be made for future results. Results need to be measured from the outset of an effort.” HISTORY IN THE MAKING “The United States is entering a new era of scientific and technological development, one where the states assume a much greater role than has been the case in the past,” said Jay Cole. “We are fairly early in the history of the state science and technology policy movement, and recognizing this also allows us in a sense to recognize that we’re making this history. We’re in uncharted territory, and we need to learn from everything we’re doing so that we continue to make progress in the future.” Participants were particularly enthusiastic to recreate the dynamism and synergy of the convocation. “We’ve been hoping to have a meeting of this sort for many years,” said Susan Hackwood. Although California has had an active state-level science and technology policy advising system, it has known little about what other states are doing, and “for us that’s been a big handicap, so I’m delighted for this meeting.” According to Gerry O’Keefe, “This kind of meeting is unique. I’ve learned a great deal, and I think my colleagues have learned a great deal…. Kudos to the National
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State Science and Technology Policy Advice: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges - Summary of a National Convocation Academies for doing this…. It’s a great service to the country and a great service to the states getting this group of people together. Future meetings that bring together people from across the country could be sponsored by the National Academies, perhaps with a focus on different topics that are important to all the states. In addition, regional meetings of nearby states could be extremely valuable, said Hackwood. “If you put a regional meeting together that brought together academics, lots of industry people, and most importantly policy people, the people who are in the trenches working with legislatures, working with the governor’s office, and making policy, if you bring these people together, the chemistries that will happen and the ideas that will come out, I guarantee you, will be quite remarkable.” Regional meetings would enable states to learn from the policy work done in nearby states. “If we [in California] have done a study on regional climate change, how can it be used in Arizona?” Hackwood said. “If Arizona’s done a study on nanotech, how can it be used in California? And how can that connect into National Academies studies, because that’s a root source of a lot of this information. There’s no competition between our states. We have everything to gain by learning from each other.” The states are often called “laboratories for democracy,” said Edward Derrick, the director of the Research Competitiveness Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.2 The same is true of science and technology policy advice. “The opportunity here as scientists is to learn from the experiments that are going on in the states in science policy and science policy advising,” Derrick said. National and regional meetings could serve as forums for the horizontal diffusion of successful experiments. At the same time, there are commonalities among states, and “I believe that’s been proved by this discussion.” Karl Pister quoted the comic strip Pogo saying, “we are surrounded by walls of insurmountable opportunity.” The convocation helped make those walls surmountable. “We need good advice from people who understand how to put scaling ladders on those walls,” Pister said. 2 For more information about AAAS’s Research Competitiveness Program, see <http://www.aaas.org/spp/rcp>.